High-Cost Special Education Program

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC)'s High-Cost Special Education Program helps eligible First Nations students with high-cost special education needs to access quality programs and services that are culturally sensitive and reflective of generally accepted provincial or territorial standards.

Call for proposals is closed

A call for proposals to help eligible First Nations students with high-cost special education needs is now closed. The deadline to submit a proposal was May 15, 2024 at 11:59 pm Eastern time.

Program funding

Budget 2016 invested $577.5 million to support special education needs through the High-Cost Special Education Program. It provides support for both direct and indirect services for students.

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About the program

ISC supports First Nations students' special education needs through 2 programs:

The High-Cost Special Education Program consists of direct and indirect services. Direct services represent at least 75% of the available funding. These include a number of classroom and school-based services related to the education and support of students with high-cost special education needs. Examples include:

Indirect services represent up to 25% of total High-Cost Special Education Program funding. Funding is provided to eligible First Nations recipients for the development of special education programs and services on the understanding that each First Nations student with special education needs is unique. Each student requires a customized program to meet their individual needs in order to best support their success. Examples include:

Who can apply

Band councils, federal schools, provincial ministries of education, provincial school boards or districts, private education institutions and organizations designated by band councils.


The deadline to submit funding requests was May 15, 2024.

How to apply

Proposals are accepted through an annual call for proposals.

Eligible recipients must submit detailed requests for all the high-cost special education activities to be undertaken during the school year. Requests must clearly state how the proposed activities will further the objectives of the program and respond to students' high-cost special education needs and the expected results of the program.

When submitting a request, please follow the High-Cost Special Education Program: National Program Guidelines 2024 to 2025.

All proposals will be assessed by ISC regional offices using these criteria.

First Nations organizations in British Columbia must apply through the First Nations Education Steering Committee.

To find out more about submitting a request, please contact ISC by email at education-education@sac-isc.gc.ca or by telephone at 1-800-567-9604 and ask to speak to an education officer.

Guidelines for last year

Assessment of a student's needs

In order to qualify for ISC's High-Cost Special Education Program funding, an individual education plan (IEP) must be in place, or being created, for a student with identified special education needs. Assessment costs are covered by ISC.

A teacher with appropriate training does a preliminary assessment and if a need is identified the student will be referred to a professional, such as a physician, speech or language specialist or an education psychologist for a formal assessment. The formal assessment is used in the development of a student's IEP.

The IEP will contain specific and measurable short-term and long-term education goals for the student. Teachers and professionals jointly develop these plans, ideally in collaboration with parents and, depending on their age, the First Nations students themselves.

The IEP sets out the learning needs of a First Nations student and the types of high-cost special education services that are required to achieve those goals.

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